Pale Ale v1 Tasting Notes

Some interesting developments at the ol’ homebrewery. I purchased a canning machine from Oktober Design at Homebrew Con, and I finally had the time (and the beer) to take it for a test drive. Unfortunately for my dumb ass, I purchased my cans on sale from MoreBeer and they were 16.9oz cans instead of the 16oz I needed.

Never one to be deterred by rules or “common sense” I pressed onward with my stupid, wrong-ass cans and canned up a brewer’s dozen (18) of the pale ale. And as with all my mistakes brilliant ideas, I decided to share my thoughts here.

First on the canning… holy shit, this is so much better than bottling I can’t even begin to describe it (he said before beginning to describe exactly it). There’s a little more of a learning curve as to when to stop filling the can vs. filling the bottle since you have the opaque vessel, but the cans that I seamed properly seemed (haaaa) to hold the carbonation as good or better than any beers I’ve bottled. Plus, aesthetically the cans – with a couple bare-bones stickers – are just sharp as hell.

In short, I absolutely love my canner and can’t wait to try with the actual, correct sized cans, so that all my seams aren’t janky af and prone to leaking.


Pale Ale Tasting Notes

First, we haven’t reached the naming stage yet with this beer because there’s a handful of changes I want to make to this version. Among those changes, the primary one is that I’d like to rebrew this recipe without messing up the water adjustments. I’m anxious to see if I can get a similar flavor profile but with a drier finish that is more in line with a traditional American Pale Ale or West Coast IPA. Anyways, let’s get into it and I’ll pontificate as we go…

Appearance: Hazy, but not “New England” hazy. After fining with gelatin and cold conditioning I would have expected a good deal more clarity from this beer. I’m planning to write a whole post on my issues with achieving clarity, but suffice it to say I wish this was a little closer to sparkling (with some forgiveness for the ample dry-hopping). Color-wise, it’s right around the 6-8 SRM range, which is what I was aiming for… and now regret. It’s a tinge more orange than what I wanted. It’s not an ugly color (especially if I could eliminate the turbidity), but – and stick with me here – I’d like my pale ale to be a little paler.

Aroma: You every hit a baseball and know instantly it’s a homerun? Shoot a shot and know it’s nothing but net? So confident in your Jeopardy! so you actually form it as a question, even though you’re on your couch and the rules don’t apply? Man, that’s this aroma. On a scale of 1-10, it’s 107. Just big-ass tropical fruit, citrus, mango, pineapple, love, justice, liberty, and self-respect. Smelling this beer actually makes you a better person. Idado Gem, y’all, it’s legit.

Taste: I am… pleasantly surprised. This presents itself as big and juicy, but drinkable. It’s missing the bitterness you’d expect from an American Pale, and the body is too full, but taken on its own merits, I’m definitely drinkable. Huge bursts of fruit – mango, pineapple, citrus, orange – really dominate, but there’s also a little bready/nutty character from the malt that also comes through in the absence of the bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Medium to medium-full with a nice, white, rocky head. This comes across fuller and juicier than I had designed. The mouthfeel and body shifts the style of this beer from American Pale to New England Pale. This tastes and drinks like a Session NEIPA. Not the least bit cloying, but may just a little slick. I wish it was drier.

Overall: I set out to make a traditional American Pale with some funky new school hops and honestly, I failed at that. I think the combination of the clarity issues and the mistakes with water adjustment completely shifted what this beer became. It’s funny how small mistakes can take the beer into a completely new direction. That said, this beer is DELIGHTFUL. I think the seal on the cans is letting some of the carbonation out, but outside of a little flatness, this is a really good beer.

A brief story, I had a glass of this Pale Ale after work before heading out to dinner. The restaurant we went to had Trillium’s DDH A Street and Stellwagen’s Modulation #11 on tap, and I preferred drinking this damn homebrew to either one of those (good-to-very-good) commercial beers.


Final Thoughts: I talked a little bit in the Pale Ale brew day post about how I was kind of down on my brewing skills and the beers I’d been brewing. Man, this beer has spun my head a straight 180. With a little forgiveness for packaging defects and minor quibbles with process (and their results in the finish product) this would be a beer I’d pay $8 for at a nice gastropub and go “Oh yeah, I’ll fuck with this.” I can’t tell you how good that feels (he said after spending 900 words telling you exactly that).

BREW DAY: Czech (Bohemian) Pils v1

A quick note: I am in the process of trying to really dial in a handful of recipes. I enjoy giving beers funky names, and I think that’s why I brew so many different recipes instead of trying to fine-tune them. So for the time being, you’ll be seeing beers with unimaginative names like “Pale Ale v1” until I either decide to name it or get the recipe just right and call it finished.


Yo, whoever left the portal to Hell open: shut the damn door! I complained on my previous brew days about the heat, but that was nothing compared to day. 98*F on the thermometer, with a “Real Feel” of 110*F. 110! I guess we got the answer to whether or not they serve beer in Hell (though it’ll be a cold day before any douche named Tucker gets served some of mine).

Anyway, my brain’s melting, what were we talking about again? Oh yeah: Czech Pils. CZ Pils is my favorite kind of pilsner which I know if blasphemy but whatever, I’ll be quaffing delicious CZ Pils with my pineapple pizza and you all can suck a fart. Sorry, heat makes me aggressive.

So my CZ Pils is officially a hit-and-miss recipe, in that I’ve brewed twice and once it was a hit and the second time it was a miss. So we’ll find out if the third time is a charm.

Mashin’

My girlfriend is out of town and the furry head and assistant brewers were reduced to puddles by the heat, so I sort of meandered into this brew day. I did a cursory final cleaning of my equipment and started heating strike water around 11-11:30am. I really wanted to focus on clarity for this pilsner, so I went back to the “malt conditioning” that I mentioned from the saison brew day. I noticed while milling in that my drill was probably operating at too high speed/power; after slowing it down I got a much coarser-looking crush, but that was about 75% of the way through the process. Lesson learned for next time.

Another issue I’ve had is getting volumes right. We came a lot closer today, with 10.75 of the 11 gallons targeted into the fermenter. I don’t think I adequately compensated so the 10 oz of pellets that would be going into this batch. Usually when I’m measuring my strike/sparge water I round up slightly to compensate. Today I rounded up a little more drastically on the strike water, so I wouldn’t have to worry about any water left in the kettle and tubing. Which is good, because it means no second degree burns handling the kettle/tubing. And wouldn’t you know it, I actually hit my volume target on first runnings.

Of course I promptly forgot this lessen when sparging and burned my hands.

I went back to the BrewTan B dosing that I used in the pale ale, to try to precipitate out some of the proteins. I have no idea if this works yet, as the pale ale is still carbing up (and tasting amazing), but after a few brew days I may have a good look and see.

I also spent a LOT of time trying to vorlouf my wort, trying to get it run as clear as possible. This proved to be a largely futile (and painfully hot) process that consisted of me getting progressively crispier under the hot sun and the wort not getting much clearer. I’m starting to think a big part of this is the crush of the grain. After getting a close look at the Hullwrecker in action today, I think I need to have a lighter touch on the drill to avoid pulverizing so many grains.

More like bore-lauf

I step mashed again (145*F for 30, 154*F for 30, 168*F for mash out) and had, uh, shockingly high efficiency. My target was 14 gallons pre-boil at 1.030 gravity for a 90 minute boil. So I pulled a sample, temperature corrected, and got a pre-boil gravity of… 1.044. Uh, that’s my finishing gravity. I’m thinking I must have screwed something up along the way and/or the heat melted my brain and it dribbled out my ears, washed away by the rivers of sweat. In my notes, I correct this reading to 1.034 for two reasons. One, going .004 over my target efficiency is in line with the increased efficiency I saw in my past two brewing sessions, and two, I ended up with a post-boil gravity reading of 1.044 and I don’t think the 90 minute boil did nothing.

There were some issue with the boil, which would explain why the gravity it 1.044 and not 1.048 or higher. See, all day I was out in the sun praying for a cloud or a breeze for a bit of relief. Well the breeze came… when I was trying to get 14 gallons to a rolling boil. I’m not a huge fan of my Anvil burners for 11 gallon batches; they just don’t throw enough BTUs. So when the wind came it caused the boil to sputter a bit; not the full rolling boil I like to see.

I used a lot more hops in this batch than I usually do with my Czech Pils recipe. One of the reasons is that I wasn’t getting a firm Saaz aroma in the previous batches. I did sub out the bittering addition for some HopShot in order to drop a little less green stuff into the boil. I also switched it to a First Wort addition. I also revised water chemistry since I lost my old water calculations in the great harddrive crash of 2019, and moved the 0 minute addition to a 20 minute whirlpool to hopefully get more of those noble-hop aromas.

I chilled the wort down to 70*F, which is amazing and a testament to the bad-ass JaDeD chiller. I did not think I would be getting 11 gallons down to anywhere near 70, and we got there in about 15 minutes. Insane. I transferred the wort to the conical, hooked up the glycol and chilled it down to 50*F before pitching 4 packets of dry yeast right onto the top. I put 5psi of CO2 on top and called it a (very long, very hot) day.

Absolute beast. JaDeD King Cobra chiller


Final Thoughts: 

Okay, that’s 3 brew days in 17 days. That’s pretty damn good! I’m feeling the muscle memory come back, and after a preliminary tasting of the pale ale (more to come on that), I’m feeling pretty good about my brewing. Because of my notes – and because I force myself to relive the brew day in writing this blog – I’m starting to notice little things I need or want to change that I probably wouldn’t notice if I was just pounding beers the whole time (I had a few, but this was a 7-8 hour session and, as mentioned, it was HOT).

The pale is carbonating and cold-conditioning right now, and the saison is due for kegging any day, so I’ll finally start getting to taste the fruits of these labors and see if all the attention was worth it. I’m cautiously optimistic from the early samples that it is.


Clean as a whistle

 

Recipe:

For 11 gallon batch, brewhouse efficiency: 75%

  • 16 lb Pilsner (2 SRM)
  • 1 lb CaraVienne (20 SRM)
  • 8 oz Dextrine/CaraPils (2 SRM)

 

  • 4mL HopShot – First Wort – 19.4 IBU
  • 90g Saaz – 30 min – 16.4 IBU
  • 90g Saaz – 5 min – 4.3 IBU
  • 120g Saaz – Flameout/20 min whirlpool – 5.9 IBU

 

  • 4 pkg of Saflager W34/70 – sprinkled onto wort

 

  • Ca: 42
  • Mg: 0
  • Na: 38
  • Sulfate: 46
  • Chloride: 69
  • Lactic Acid (88%): 5mL, 1.8 mL
  • Bicarbonate: -42
  1. Mash at 145*F for 30 min, increase to 154*F for 30 min
  2. Mash out at 168*F, vorlauf, sparge, you know the drill
  3. Boil for 90 minutes
  4. Ferment at 50-55*F, allow to free rise to 58*F for 10+ days
  5. Raise to 62*F for 3 days (diacetyl rest)
  6. Cold condition at close to 32*F for 30 days
  • OG Target: 1.044 [Actual: 1.044]
  • FG Target: 1.009 [Actual: ]
  • IBU: 45.9
  • SRM: 4.4 [Actual: ]

BREW DAY: Saison v1

A quick note: I am in the process of trying to really dial in a handful of recipes. I enjoy giving beers funky names, and I think that’s why I brew so many different recipes instead of trying to fine-tune them. So for the time being, you’ll be seeing beers with unimaginative names like “Pale Ale v1” until I either decide to name it or get the recipe just right and call it finished.


Nine days (Absolutely (The Story of a Girl)) since the last brew day, and we’re already back at it. Yes, it’s 86*F and yes, it’s over 90% humidity, and yes, I’m a glutton for punishment… but also for beer.

Today’s batch is a saison. From the BJCP:

Most commonly, a pale, refreshing, highly-attenuated, moderately-bitter, moderate-strength Belgian ale with a very dry finish. Typically highly carbonated, and using non-barley cereal grains and optional spices for complexity, as complements the expressive yeast character that is fruity, spicy, and not overly phenolic.

I brewed a saison a few years ago as part of a split-batch with my first attempt at a pilsner. The pilsner tasted like dogshit but the saison came out really, really good. The grain bill was real simple, bittered with Chinook and late-hopped with Nelson Sauvigon. I was really pleased with the fruity, white wine character the hops gave and how it fixed with the French saison yeast, so I figured I’d give it another shot with some slight modifications.

saisondetre2015

First saison attempt.

I have a bad habit of buying hops without a brew day in mind. As such, I have like 3 lbs of Idaho 7 hops.

Juicy tropical fruit and citrus (think apricot, orange, red grapefruit, papaya) with big notes of resiny pine and hints of black tea.

Not really a great “to style” hop for a saison, but that actually sounds pretty nice to me when mixed with the French saison’s character. When I’ve used French saison yeast, it’s thrown more cracked pepper and spice character with less of the Belgian bubblegum, banana, and clove characteristics that I’m not a big fan of.

I hosted a member of my homebrew club during this brew day, so less fancy pictures to share.

My setup in the foreground, and Bill’s in the background.

I tried something new when milling in for this brew session; first, I bought a new “Hullwrecker” mill as the second-hand mill I had been using started falling apart. Second, I tried something called “malt conditioning.” Basically the idea behind malt conditioning is adding a small amount of water to the malt before milling in order to make the malt husks more pliable. More pliable husks are harder to pulverize, resulting – theoretically – in my more husks making it into the mash, and thereby creating a better filter for the mash.

I saw a roughly 2% increase in efficiency from the Pale Ale brew day, but it’s hard to give malt conditioning all the credit, since it could be attributed to the new grain mill. The new mill was set to the same setting (0.0278) as the previous mill, so I’m willing to entertain the idea that it’s possible the conditioning helped.

As for improving the filtering/clarity of the wort, there were 3 lbs of wheat malt in the recipe so it was an uphill battle with clarity with that, but I’m willing to give it another go and see if I can get more clarity the next time around.

Mash efficiency came in at 77%, way over what I had expected and ended up with a pre-boil gravity of 1.044, a few points higher than the expected 1.040. This is the second brew day in a row where my efficiency was higher than target. I’m thinking that it probably has to do with the two-step mash that I did for these beers; wanting them to finish dry, I mashed both batches in at 145*F and raising the temperature into the 150s after 30 minutes, creating more attenuable worts.

I boiled for 75 minutes, whirlpooling my flameout addition for about 20 minutes. This was a last second decision since there was only one hose available to chill the wort for me and Bill and his boil finished first. I finished with a little less than my target 11 gallons, and at 1.050 gravity (target was 1.048).

All in all it was a pretty stress-free brewday. I only had 3 hop additions and one of those was at “first wort;” none of my new equipment gave me any trouble; and I skipped the BrewTan B addition to the boil because clarity isn’t necessary for a saison (and because I didn’t want to bother trying to rehydrate it / I was enjoying a couple beers). I pitched the yeast starter at 70*F and I’m allowing it to free rise up to 80*F – it’s up to about 78*F after two days.

Yeast Starter with Propper canned wort and WL590


Final Thoughts:

I think the “muscle memory” of brewing is starting to come back to me after being able to brew twice within 10 days. It’s also likely that I’ll be able to brew again this weekend. The pale ale should be finished dry hopping and kegged this week, so that’ll free up a fermenter and with the girlfriend out of town on Sunday I don’t see a good reason not to make it 3 brews in 17 days. I’m thinking a lager of some kind so that I’ll have some time to drink through the pale ale before the next beer is ready. Maybe a Czech Pils or a Vienna Lager?

I’m sure I’ll let you guys know…


Recipe:

For 11 gallon batch

  • 12 lb Pilsner (2 SRM)
  • 5 lb UK Pale Malt (2 SRM)
  • 3 lb White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM)

 

  • 15g Chinook – First Wort – 12.4 IBU
  • 30g Idaho 7 – 15 min – 12.1 IBU
  • 60g Idaho 7 – Flameout/20 min whirlpool – 14.8 IBU

 

  • 2 pkg of White Labs 590 French Saison in a 2L starter, shaken

 

  • Ca: 66
  • Mg: 0
  • Na: 38
  • Sulfate: 149
  • Chloride: 35
  • Lactic Acid (88%): 3mL, 1.6 mL
  • Bicarbonate: -5
  1. Mash at 145*F for 30 min, increase to 154*F for 30 min
  2. Mash out at 168*F, vorlauf, sparge, you know the drill
  3. Boil for 75 minutes
  4. Ferment at 70*F, allow to free rise to 80*F for 7 days
  • OG Target: 1.048 [Actual: 1.050]
  • FG Target: 1.006 [Actual: 1.002]
  • IBU: 39.3
  • SRM: 6 [Actual: 6]